Hurricane Isaac made landfall in the US state of Louisiana, bringing high winds, soaking rains and posing the first test for the costly flood-protection system built after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that killed over 1800 people in 2005.
Isaac, which was upgraded from tropical storm to Category 1 hurricane yesterday and was packing maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometres per hour, lashed the area with heavy rains and strong winds, as residents hunkered down.
The landfall, however, was less powerful that originally expected. But it still threatens to inundate the historically flood-prone, low-lying regions with a major storm surge and heavy rain.
Over 170,000 people were plunged into darkness, media reports said.
Indian-American Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal has decided to skip the Republican party’s convention to focus on preparatory measures.
The US National Hurricane Centre said a “dangerous storm surge” was occurring along the northern Gulf Coast.
Shortly before the category one Isaac made landfall, it said storm surges of up to eight feet had already been reported in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in charge of recovery operations, and more than 4,100 National Guard troops have been activated. The Louisiana National Guard has deployed 48 boat teams and 13 communications teams.
The Coast Guard has closed the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico.
Cargo terminals within the Port of New Orleans have ceased operations. Entergy officials said they are taking one of their nuclear power plants west of New Orleans offline.
States of emergency was declared in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowing authorities to coordinate disaster relief and seek emergency federal funds.
Mr Jindal issued a series of executive orders, including outlining the use of state vehicles to transport non-state employees during an emergency.
“We have learned from past experiences that you cannot wait and you have to push the federal bureaucracy. We think it’s important to be aggressive and do everything we can to protect our people and our property,” he said.
A day earlier he had written a letter to US President Barck Obama in this regard.
In a conference call shortly after the system was upgraded to hurricane status, federal officials warned again and again that the storm, which killed 29 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, would generate high seas, intense rain and serious flooding in coastal and inland areas for days.
The hurricane will be the first test of the $14.5 billion, 133—mile ring of levees, flood walls, gates and pumps put in place after Hurricane Katrina by the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that built the defences that failed this city catastrophically in 2005.
Forty-one parishes have issued emergency declarations.
Seven parishes have announced mandatory evacuations in their jurisdictions. The Department of Corrections has moved prisoners from coastal parishes to state prison facilities.